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Alex Hays Is Natural Wonder in a World of Boost and Nitrous


Two years ago if you had told Alex Hays that he’d be in the upper echelon of Ultra Street racing and one of only three cars to run in the 4.60s, the Michigander would’ve laughed. In just two short seasons, though, that is exactly what has happened as Hays’ career best in the limited 275, eighth-mile eliminator is a stout 4.691 at 144.10 mph. Making the run even more impressive is the fact that Hays’ Calypso Green 1993 Mustang LX doesn’t feature a fancy power adder.

After scuffing a piston in the family’s 585ci big-block Chevy last year, the Hays family went all-in and had Uratchko Racing Engines build a no-holds-barred naturally aspirated combination. The former powerplant was no slouch; the big-block spent its former life as a Texas Pro Stock engine and wore the very first set of BMF 330 cylinder heads that Slick Rick Cylinder Heads built as the predecessor of the SR20 heads. In addition to Uratchko, the team enlisted many of the same players as the previous project as they aimed higher with the new engine. Hays had some interesting news regarding his group of all-stars, “Everything on this engine was built, assembled, or completed in a two-car garage—no big corporations with engineers or fancy operations. These are exceptional people who do it out of their houses.”

Uratchko Racing Engines is no stranger to naturally aspirated racing with several NMCA and Milan All-Motor championships to its credit. The team went with a 588ci displacement, though the bore and stroke formula is a strictly guarded secret. Slick Rick Cylinder Heads designed and prepared a new SR23 Chevy-based head, which is considered a conventional style unit with factory valve angle and port layout.

According to Hays, the guys at Slick Rick Cylinder Heads say it is the baddest conventional big-block Chevy head they’ve ever done. And considering the Comp Eliminator and Pro Stock head porting experience of the shop, that is quite a statement. Mating up to the cylinder heads is an intake masterpiece from Marcella Manifolds. Uratchko works with Marcella Manifolds on a variety of engine programs, so it was only natural to rely on the company’s talents for Hays’ new beast. The intake manifold is a hybrid version as it is made from both billet and sheet aluminum material.

The engine build took nearly a year to complete and practically came to an end during the initial dyno testing sessions over Memorial Day Weekend in June of 2017.

“It ate the crankshaft when the dyno locked up during a test pull. Luckily Winberg had another one on the shelf,” explained Hays. With the bullet repaired, it was time to go testing around mid-summer.

The term “testing” for a naturally aspirated combination is far different than what it means for a boosted application. Instead of using a computer to manage the application of power like in boosted cars, Hays had to make sure they were stocked up on torque converter stators, different rear gear ratios, carburetors, and a few other little parts and pieces. It took them weeks to work through the new-combo teething process and find out what the car liked and didn’t like as they hunted for elapsed times deep in the 4s. Two years earlier they had run 5.02 out of the gate, which was only .05-seconds off the national record. This year, they had to be solidly in the 4.70s if they wanted a chance to be a contender.

Hays commented that thankfully they have a lot of good friends who run naturally aspirated combinations because it took a considerable amount of fine-tuning to get the car to run quickly. The national debut occurred at the Honeywell Garrett NMCA All-American Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park, where the team entered Edelbrock Xtreme Street. The category had just switched to an eighth-mile distance and the rules are very similar to Ultra Street. Several 4.70 runs later, Hays completed the weekend as the runner-up to the turbocharged entry of Jessie Coulter. But the big statement would come a weekend later during the Yellow Bullet Nationals at Cecil County Dragway.

“I expected a few other teams to go in the 4.60s. It was a complete surprise when the car ran 4.691 at 144.10 mph. The conditions were absolutely perfect,” commented Hays. Other impressive times from the Mustang are the 1.072 sixty-foot performances on the Mickey Thompson ET Street Pro 275 radials. As Hays explains it, the Team Z Motorsports chassis setup has been untouched since Dave Zimmerman prescribed new shock and suspension settings. The Mustang rolls over the scales, with driver, at 2,860 pounds.

Hays also wanted to thank Team Racepak, Dave Trott at PSI valvesprings, Slick Rick Cylinder Heads, Uratchko Racing Engines, Marcella Manifolds, and Drink Hard Racing for their support of his new Ultra Street/Xtreme Street combination.

The winter months have silenced race season, but Hays is focused on converting to EFI for 2018. Once the season starts, the Michigan racer plans on showing the power adder crowd that Mother Nature has plenty to offer all on her own when it comes to going fast.

Mike Galimi
Mike Galimi is the Director of Content & Marketing at ProMedia Publishing and Events with nearly 20 years of experience in motorsport writing and photography.